The line into Best Buy at Topsy Lane stretched halfway down the shopping center that houses it an hour before it opened.
The line into Target wrapped around the entire building.
And at Kohl's, 300 people waited in the cold, some sipping complimentary hot chocolate, to rush in for the deals brought on by Black Friday. There, it took 10 minutes after its midnight opening for the stream of people to turn into a trickle.
"I got out here at 10 (p.m.) and people were already here," Kohl's Carson City store manager Mary Ann Iverson said. "I was like, 'we don't open for another two hours, guys.'"
Kohl's, like the other stores, opened at midnight this year. Walmart pushed that further, starting its Black Friday sales on Thursday.
Retailers hope the earlier openings will make shopping more convenient for Americans who are more likely to be worried about high unemployment and the other challenges they face in the weak economy. Black Friday is important to merchants because it kicks off the holiday shopping season, a time when they can make 25 to 40 percent of their annual revenue. It's expected that shoppers will spend nearly $500 billion during the holiday shopping season, or about 3 percent more than they did last year.
"It's a good move to try to get shoppers to spend sooner, before they run out of money," says Burt Flickinger, III, president of retail consultancy Strategic Resource Group.
About 34 percent of consumers plan to shop on Black Friday, up from 31 percent last year, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers, and 16 percent had planned to shop on Thanksgiving Day itself. For the weekend, 152 million people are expected shop, up from 138 million last year.
To get people to shop, merchants pulled out of their bag of tricks. A few opened last year at midnight, but several other stores are doing so this year. Some are matching the prices of their competitors. Others are offering layaway plans that allow shoppers to pay as they go.
Six friends from Gardnerville said they came to shop the deals almost on a lark - they didn't decide to go out until about 8 p.m. on Thursday, but made a night of it, hitting Walmart and Kohl's early, J. C. Penney at 4 a.m. and capping it off with breakfast at Casino Fandango.
They came to collect toys, they said. And when the doors opened, its what they did: Devin Devries tugged at Ronny Griffin's sweatshirt as the group jogged to the back of the store. Griffin hefted a dollhouse over his shoulder and they were off.
A minute later and an announcement came over the speakers about a car with its lights on. A woman passing by laughed. "Like they are going to leave now," she said, pushing her cart down the aisle.